Meadow saffron

Meadow saffron

Meadow saffron ©Montgomeryshire WT

Meadow saffron

Scientific name: Colchicum autumnale
A late-blooming flower, Meadow saffron looks like a crocus, displaying similar pink flowers once its leaves have died back. It is a highly poisonous plant of meadows and woodland rides and clearings.

Species information


Height: 10-40cm

Conservation status

Classified as Near Threatened on the Vascular plant red data list for Great Britain.

When to see

September to September


Meadow saffron is a plant of damp hay meadows and woodland rides and clearings, but is also popular in gardens. It is also known as 'Autumn crocus' or 'Naked ladies'; the latter name stemming from the habit of the flowers appearing without any leaves. Its pink, crocus-like flowers appear in September, but this plant is, in fact, a colchicum - a bulbous plant, but not a true crocus. The leaves appear in the spring and may be confused with Ramsons - a potentially lethal mistake, since all parts of the plant are poisonous. The unimproved grasslands where this beautiful plant grows were typically managed for hay since the poisonous leaves die down prior to harvest.

How to identify

Meadow saffron is a short plant that displays large, pink, crocus-like flowers with six petals. Its shiny, lance-like leaves die back before the flowers appear.


Largely restricted to Central and Southern England, and the Welsh borders. Scattered populations elsewhere.

Did you know?

The deadly poison of Meadow saffron, colchicine, is used to treat gout.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts look after many meadow habitats using traditional methods, such as hay-cutting, reseeding and grazing, for the benefit of local wildlife. We are also working closely with farmers and landowners to promote wildlife-friendly practices in these areas. You can help too: volunteer for your local Wildlife Trust and you could be involved in everything from stockwatching to surveying meadow flowers.